Andrew McCormack ‘Graviton’ (Jazz Village) 3/5

British pianist Andrew McCormack returns with a much heralded new album and with a fine ensemble of UK musicians on board including vocalist Eska Mtungwazi and tenor saxophonist Shabaka Hutchings who alternates between tenor, clarinet and bass clarinet. In parts, the new album has been compared to a homage to the early period of Chick Corea in Light as a Feather, and it is true to say that there are elements of that sound, especially in the wordless vocals of Eska who impresses throughout, as illustrated on the opener, ‘Breathe’. However, in general, this recording is far more geared towards contemporary beats and influences, and dub-step surfaces on the urgent sounding, ‘Escape velocity’, which is an uptempo number that deploys a repetitive piano riff to good effect. Collective choir voicings greet the listener on, ‘Andromeda’, which is a groove laden piece with Eska once again offering up wordless vocals. The singer in fact is a major contributor to the album and adds lyrics to three of the compositions, all of which are originals penned by McCormack.

A brief sojourn in New York seems to have enthused McCormack and encouraged the pianist to search more deeply. On, ‘Aurora’, McCormack performs on both piano and glockenspiel on this brief number, while on the sparse sounding, ‘Kalamata’, he commences on solo piano before exploring other keyboards. If one were to cite pianistic influences, then Brad Mehldau would immediately spring to mind, but also Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett and even shades of Monk.

The combination of influences he has soaked up is not quite his own yet, but he is most certainly heading in the right direction and the inclusion of collaborative work with Eska is one that he should return to. Eska for her part, revels in this jazzy setting.

Tim Stenhouse